Are Ringtones Unislamic? (Please Don’t Answer!)

Posted on January 18, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, Religion, Society
72 Comments
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Adil Najam

Pakistan is a land of creative cell-phone ringtones. Sometimes, I feel, a little too creative.

You are sitting in a meeting with some very self-important and staid people – officials, businessmen, buzurg grandfather types – and one of their cell-phone rings: and the ring-tone is a computer synthesis of “Sanou Nehr Waaley Pul Tey Bulla Kay” or “Nawa Aaya Aye Soonia.”

Even though the first is one of my favorite Noor Jahan songs and the second my all-time favorite movie, my head spins and I wonders if in a society where everyone is always so proper and so cognizant of “loug kiya sochaiN gay” (what will people think?), cell-phone ringtones are like catharsis. One of the things that lets people show that little bit of their “fun side” that they were otherwise suppressing. Kind of like the otherwise all-too-serious professor in the US coming to class wearing a Mickey Mouse tie (I actually own more than one of those).

Yet, it seems that the vigilantism of the piety police that is the extremist fringe in Pakistan wants to even snatch (literally) this little pleasure from us.


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Here is a small news item in the Daily Times (January 18):

Militants snatch computers from ringtone shops

LANDI KOTAL: Local Taliban militants snatched computers from ringtone shops in the main Landi Kotal Bazaar on Thursday, sources said. Earlier, they added, the militants had warned them to stop downloading ringtones onto mobiles, terming it an “un-Islamic” practice. Around 10 armed Taliban came to the bazaar and took away computers from ringtone shops at around 5pm.



Whatever else you do, folks, please do not try to answer the question in the headline. It is rhetorical. Frankly, I have very little interest in what anyone, least of all some militants, have to say about this and I am sure that God has far more important things to deal with right now than how my cell phone rings.

I have chosen to write about this question because I think there are two types of people who do take things like this seriously. So serious are they in their beliefs that they are even willing to condone violence in the name of those beliefs. I am afraid of what the fanaticism of these two extreme groups can lead to, especially in Pakistan.


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One type are the puritanical extremists within Islam who think that they and they alone have a monopoly on piety and theirs and only their view is right and who are willing – even eager – to impose, even violently, their view on all others. The Taliban, of whatever ilk, are one such group. The second type are those who obsess about things that are supposedly wrong with Islam and who love to believe such nonsense because it reinforces their existing prejudices. Who are prone to taking such actions by the extremists and then project it as if all Muslims are like this. This set of people are often equally extreme in their beliefs.

Luckily, neither is a majority. Unfortunately, the ranks of both are swelling. Oddly, but not surprisingly, these two extreme types have much – too much – in common; including the monopoly they think they hold over the truth.

Sadly, but also not surprisingly, these two groups are probably the biggest threat to Islam and Muslims today, including and especially in Pakistan. Even though I fear their impact and influence in Pakistan and on Pakistan, I – like most Pakistanis I know – reject the message of both these extreme groups. I prefer, instead, to listen to cell-phone ringtones that go “Sanou Nehr Waaley Pul Tey Bulla Kay” or “Nawa Aaya Aye Soonia.”

72 responses to “Are Ringtones Unislamic? (Please Don’t Answer!)

  1. Ringtones are not good in Masjid

  2. Agadir says:

    AOA to alls
    I want to say it is wrong in our muslim community because a man go to says prayer and he have a mobile phone, and forget mute to his mobile phone, which loads songs ringtone,when he have to revieve a call the song is played. It is huge sin in Islam.

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